The Church Under the State of Israel

A wedding celebrated by Palestinian Christians, in 1940, in Beit Jala near Jerusalem.  Palestinian Christians are a religious minority under the State of Israel, and often overlooked, even though they trace their heritage of faith back to the earliest Christians.  Due to the conditions imposed by the State of Israel, a large diaspora community of Palestinian Christians now live abroad, among other Arab-speaking Christians.  Photo credit:  G. Eric and Edith Matson Photo Collection | Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons


the church under the state of israel

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Books and Articles on the Church Under the State of Israel

Kairos USA (website) a collaboration of American churches and a curriculum calling attention to the plight of Palestinian Christians under the State of Israel

Al-Bushra (website) a blog dedicated to exploring Christianity in the Middle East, often calling for support for Palestinian Christians; links to many other Christian and human rights organizations

Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes (Amazon book, Jan 17, 2014) Raheb, a Palestinian Christian theologian, explores how “empire” shapes the biblical story and modern day experiences and challenges in the Middle East

Al Araby, Christian Palestinians Reject Calls to Join Israeli Army (Middle East Monitor, Apr 25, 2014)

Yohanna Katanacho, A Palestinian Baptist in the Bombarded Gaza Shares His Thoughts and Prayer Requests (Come and See: a Christian website from Nazareth, Jul 12, 2014)

Bethlehem Bible College, A Statement from Bethlehem Bible College Regarding the Current Crisis in Gaza (BethBC website, Jul 25, 2014)

Andrew Doran, When Christianities Collide: Persecuted Churches of the East Need Dialogue With the West (The American Conservative, Jun 9, 2016)

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Evangelicals Side with Israel. That’s Hurting Palestinian Christians. (Washington Post, Dec 23, 2016) cites a Pew study showing that 80% of American evangelicals believe that God gave the land of Palestine/Israel to Jewish people, despite passages inclusive of non-Jewish people like Ezekiel 47:22 - 23, Isaiah 56:6 - 8 and 66:20 - 21, while only 40% of American Jews believe the same.  This points to the conflation of white American evangelicalism with the nation-state, stemming from early Protestant nationalism and the secular Enlightenment, without a corresponding Christian ethical reflection on political power.

M.J. Rosenberg, Democrats Join Republicans In Bill Criminalizing Speech Critical Of Israel (Huffington Post, Jul 27, 2017)

Naim Stifan Ateek, A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict (Amazon book, Oct 12, 2017) Ateek recounts the historical roots of this struggle, including how memories of the WW2 Shoah placed Israeli claims and aspirations above those of the native inhabitants of Palestine, to the West Bank situation. Supported by many Western Christians, Israeli claims to the land rely on a particular exclusivist reading of the Bible. In contrast, a Palestinian theology of liberation responds with a counter-strategy for biblical interpretation, emphasizing the prophetic themes of inclusivity and justice.

Ali Younes, Israel Behind 'Christian Exodus' from Palestine (Aljazeera, Dec 27, 2017) cites a study done by a Palestinian university showing that Palestinian Christian emigration from the State of Israel is largely because of political and economic concerns, not because of religious intolerance from Muslims.

Miko Peled, De-Arabizing Jerusalem: Biblical “History” Underwrites Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing (Mint Press News, Aug 20, 2018) subtitled, "The reality is that for seven decades Israel has been engaged in the crime of ethnic cleansing. If this crime is not immediately brought to a stop, the City of Jerusalem will lose its heritage forever."

Geoffrey Aronson, Trump’s Middle East ‘Deal of the Century’ Creeping Into View (The American Conservative, Aug 31, 2018) about suppressing Palestinians.  See also Alexia Underwood, The U.S. Plans to End All Support for UN Agency That Aids Palestinian Refugees (Vox, Aug 31, 2018)

Avi Shlaim, Palestinians Still Live Under Apartheid in Israel, 25 Years After Oslo Accord (The Guardian, Sep 13, 2018)

Julian Gill, Texas Speech Pathologist Fired by School District for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Oath (Houston Chronicle, Dec 17, 2018)

Lee Fang, Texas Messianic Jewish Lobbying Group Builds Support for U.S.-Funded Ethnic Cleansing Plan in Palestine (The Intercept, Dec 16, 2018) and Jonathan Weisman, American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup (NY Times, Jan 4, 2019)

Michelle Alexander, Time to Break the Silence on Palestine (NY Times, Jan 19, 2019) "Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War. We must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time."

Mehdi Hasan, There Is a Taboo Against Criticizing AIPAC — and Ilhan Omar Just Destroyed It (The Intercept, Feb 12, 2019)

Peter Beinart, Debunking the Myth that Anti-Zionism is Antisemitic (The Guardian, Mar 7, 2019) "All over the world, it is an alarming time to be Jewish – but conflating anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred is a tragic mistake"

The Young Turks, Republicans Vote AGAINST 'Anti-Hate' Measure (The Young Turks, Mar 7, 2019) in response to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar's comments about being asked to have an allegiance to Israel; explores anti-Semitism in the U.S. being disguised by a pro-Zionist and pro-Netanyahu posture. See also The Young Turks, Ilhan Omar Demolishes Republican Haters (The Young Turks, Aug 28, 2019) about pledging loyalty to a foreign country, and how Republican leadership does so to Israel. See also Zak Cheney-Rice, Alabama Republicans Vote to Remove Ilhan Omar After Endorsing Roy Moore (New York Magazine, Aug 28, 2019)

Adam Wren, Meet the Group Trying to Change Evangelical Minds About Israel (Politico, Mar 10, 2019) “Telos keeps a low profile, but its ambitions are biblical in proportion”

Ari Lamm, Israel’s Political Mythology (First Things, Oct 10, 2019) examines the political and cultural role played by the Idumeans among the Jews at the time of Jesus; suggests that “Jewishness” is more complicated and permeable than simply “ethnicity,” and/or that the State of Israel has the potential of being more tolerant towards people who do not identify as “ethnic Jews”

the church in the middle east: Under the empires

Church and empire: faithfulness and compromise